Summary of #teachandlearn consultation – and request for more!

We would like to thank everybody for their contributions to the consultation over the past month. As we see some are still keen to contribute, we are extending the consultation period until 25th January. We look forward to hearing from you!

Below is a summary of some key issues raised so far during the consultation – these are by no means exhaustive, so please do take a look at the rich contributions.

Stocktaking progress, the place of education in the post-2015 agenda and linkages between education and broader development outcomes.

  • Not all the MDGs have yet been met. A thorough review should be conducted to understand, as much as is possible, which have not yet been met, why, and whether they are still valid ‘targets’ for continued progress towards. Country and regional level evaluation of progress towards the MDGs and Education for All could lead to more focused goals going forward, tailored to both national and local level development needs.
  • An overreliance of student learning assessments as an accountability tool for policy makers. A focus on measurable aspects (mostly in mathematics and reading) may lead  valuing what we measure rather than measuring what we value – consequently creating pressures on education systems to focus their resources on measurable indicators, reducing scope and value of the whole curriculum and teachers autonomy.
  • On the other hand, commentators also mentioned that while many important learning outcomes are difficult or undesirable to measure it is also important to respond to the problems of standardised testing with efforts to improve how we do measure what students learn. A ‘global learning goal’ may be a blunt instrument with certain risks attached, but also offers to galvanise efforts to improve education quality, if properly adapted to context.
  • Some proposed that education – and the monitoring and implementation of the EFA agenda – should be framed in a rights based approach and as an end in itself.
  • Some commentators argued that what is lacking is a comprehensive framework for analysing and assessing resourcing and performance in the context of the capacity of low income countries to achieve equitable education. Others noted that equality does not mean one size fits all, and that equality is only achieved when solutions are tailored to meet country circumstances and context.

Teaching and learning

  • Commentators agreed that teacher quality has a strong impact on student learning, but raised questions about the effective ways in which teachers’ performance can be improved to achieve this end.    Other contributors questioned the degree to which teachers can be appropriately incentivised and teaching performance accurately measured. Others also argued that the use of student performance data to draw conclusions about teachers “effectiveness” may invariably lead to teachers ‘teaching to the test’ thereby undermine broader learning outcomes. To avert this, some suggested that greater attention should be given to improving teacher training to encourage creativity and innovation among teachers, rather than the use of uniform performance assessment frameworks and pay incentives.
  • Although there are large teacher shortages, particularly in less developed regions, some commentators warned against using cheaper and unqualified teachers to fill the gap, pointing out those countries that have resorted to massive hiring of untrained and unqualified teachers have seen few returns in regard to learning outcomes. In addition to salary levels, they pointed to the need for policymakers to address factors which make teaching an undesirable profession (particularly in rural areas), such as poor working conditions and school infrastructure, crowded classrooms, and lack of pedagogical support. Other commentators noted that improved learning outcomes can take place in a context of short formal instructional hours and relatively low teacher salaries in public education systems if linked to appropriate governance and management structures, as the case of Vietnam demonstrates.
  • More broadly, commentators suggested that the report should highlight the positive contribution that teacher organisations can make to teacher improvement and general education reforms.
  • A few commentators observed that in some cases private schools achieve higher learning outcomes among students than their public counterparts, and that this called for greater participation between the two.  But others argued that the wide differences among private schools in terms of curricula, infrastructure, and teaching staff, and that private schooling, even low-fee paying ones can reproduce inequalities.
  • A point was made that teaching methods should incorporate research from cognitive neuroscience on basic skills, particularly for lower income countries and sections of society.
  • Another point made by many commentators is that, lack of proficiency in the medium of instruction on the part of both learners and teachers is a crucial factor which can depress school achievement. Where curriculum allows students to build upon their existing knowledge and ensures its relevance to their lives, quality education can become more equitable and ensure that learning outcomes improve for all.

We value further contributions to these debates, and other issues outlined in our concept note. We particularly welcome contributions in the following areas:

  • examples of education programmes and policies where improvements in equitable learning have supported better development outcomes, including in areas such  as in political participation, civil engagement, social empowerment, environmental awareness.
  • examples of countries that have managed to improve equitable access to quality education, and in particular how such systems have managed to provide high quality teachers (formally or informally trained) to schools in rural or socio-economically disadvantaged areas. We welcome examples from programmes that have supported teachers who have been recruited without having received professional training to improve their practice and so positively impact learning.
  • teacher unions can play a positive role in teacher development, and teachers themselves can play an important role in policy reform that benefits equitable learning – we are interested in information on approaches that have been adopted in different countries to ensure their active participation.

5 Responses

  1. In a review of various research studies, I noted that teachers in many countries within Africa are not trained to teach reading but rather their pre-service and in-service training courses focus on teaching language. The standards of knowledge for teachers teaching reading as suggested by IRA are not provided for within the courses. In order words, they have low pedagogical content knowledge.

    Consequently, primary teacher training colleges need to revise their curriculum, Ministries of Education need to work with partners to provide short courses to train the teachers to adequate teach reading

    There is some evidence that the same is true in Mathematics.

    Do other regions of the world have similar issues?

    Barbara Koech
    World Vision International

  2. Hi Barbara. this is a very interesting point and probably has a big effect on early grade learners, and possibly the most vulnerable in particular. If you could pass on the review that you have done, that would be really helpful in preparation of our Report (or if it is not on line, if you can send a copy to to our email address, that would be great)

  3. Encuentro que se ha puesto bastante énfasis en experiencias escolarizadas, y en los sistemas de educación formal. Pero, dados los importantes avances en tecnologías de la información, cabría la pena preguntarse cómo será transformada la escuela en su función social (lo que implicaría la transformación de todos los elementos que componen la estructura escolar, entre estos la labor y función social del docente). Este no es un tema menor, pues es posible que en el futuro la función social de las escuelas y de los docentes pueda (por lo menos en parte) ser realizada por medios tecnológicos que ya se han hecho cotidianos. Dado que este es un asunto avizorado desde el tiempo del informe “Aprender a ser” de inicios de los 70, cabría la pena investigar las posibilidades reales de la transformación (o reducción) del rol social (y no solamente económico) de las escuelas.

  4. Though am in a hurry, not chance to go through the beautiful contributions of concerned citizens of the world, am so worried about Africa, because as we approach 2015 with the close of the MDG’s they are concern that pupils are being enrolled into schools, however the quality of education here in Africa is not tailored to meet our need. If indeed we must build on the gains of increase in numbers attending schools, we must check the content, and make it local while taking into consideration global best practice. And above all our education must be skilled based (Skilled-Education), it is the only way our continent will be save of perpetual poverty of health, materials, ideas, and well-being.

  5. I agree with the comments shared in consultation by global peers in education. And reiterate some of what I think are essentials – which is that for any learning and development initiative to work we need:

    To ensure that all key stakeholders have informed input to what we are trying to achieve and deliver – collectively and in partnership. This makes sense – resource shared and services.

    That the strategy includes, learning, teaching, and assessment challenges.

    That strategy includes skills development initiatives – so that individuals are work-ready i.e. employability measures so no NEET escapes school and learning – including basic skills for entry to employment.

    That employers are engaged – including HR forums, workforce planning and development measures includes those just leaving schools.

    That teaching and assessment competence and assistant qualifications are aligned with the national occupational standards of the country.

    That we encourage innovative and open learning practices – champions of learning and dissemination where need may be i.e. disengaged individuals, rural communities etc.

    I am not sure if this is helpful or supportive to the consultation; but I hope will go in some way to inform some of the discussion and deliverables for 2013.

    I may also be aware this was not the remit of the consultation – but I think wider knowledge than just the immediate resource allocation, and dissemination might be helpful. I apologise in advance if this information does not support some of the consultation purpose.

    Thank you – Prabhjit

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